Election 2016

Republican Candidates Don't Have to Pander to Evangelicals to Get Their Support

There's a quiet shift underway.

Republican talk show host Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas who ran for president as a social conservative in 2008, pictured in August 2012, made the rather uncomfortable observation Tuesday that "Republicans have done a pathetic job of reachin

In 2008 Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses and competed in many primary states after, but this time around his candidacy is barely mentioned. His fundraising numbers aren’t impressive and no one considers him a viable threat. What happened to all the evangelicals who supported Huckabee less than a decade ago? Same for Rick Santorum in 2012; he dominated in Iowa, won a number of states after. Ted Cruz is leading or tied in many Iowa polls where evangelical voters dominate, but he's sharing evangelical support with Trump, who is far from being a Christian lamb.

A new piece by Bonnie Kristian at The Week speculates that the traditional Christian voting dynamic, with the candidate forced to prove his own personal religious bonafides, is unraveling. You don't have to be one to get traction in the polls. She points to the tactics and success of other candidates in the field:

[T]hese days there are a lot of candidates trying to capture the GOP evangelical vote. And their success doesn't seem to have much to do with their actual faith. Witness Cruz, for example, who quotes liberally from the Bible on the stump. His campaign asks supporters to join his national prayer team so there’s a "direct line of communication between our campaign and the thousands of Americans who are lifting us up before the Lord." (The sign-up form also includes a box you can tick if you "publicly endorse Senator Ted Cruz for President!")

Kristian also points out that, while Trump’s religious pandering might be transparent, he also remains the top candidate when it comes to evangelical support. 

Trump knows he needs to say some Christian stuff, but he’s doing the absolute minimum to pass this test.

I know this because that's what he word-vomited at a rally in Iowa the last week in December. "I even brought my Bible — the evangelicals, OK?" Trump said. "We love the evangelicals and we're polling so well."

In case the point of waving around the Bible wasn't perfectly clear, he added one more time: "I really want to win Iowa — and again, the evangelicals, the Tea Party — we're doing unbelievably, and I think I'm going to win Iowa."

Read Kristian’s entire piece over at The Week.